Big 12: Chris Cosh
The Wildcats survived close calls against FCS foes Eastern Kentucky and Massachusetts in recent seasons. Opening-night struggles against what should have been overmatched opponents are nothing new.
That was the case Saturday until a 35-point fourth-quarter outburst gave the Wildcats a convincing 51-9 victory over Missouri State.
Collin Klein didn't necessarily help or hurt his fledgling Heisman campaign, completing 19 of 28 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Kansas State looks like it's trying to limit the damage done to its workhorse quarterback. He carried the ball 317 times last season, averaging 26.4 per game.
Tonight? Just 12 carries for 59 yards. Bill Snyder's team did what it took to win. The game's biggest highlight? A 95-yard sprint from John Hubert, who finished with 152 yards and a score on his 12 carries.
Kansas State hardly outgained the Bears, 493-415, which has to cause plenty of concerns for Tom Hayes' defense, playing its first game under a new coordinator since Chris Cosh left for South Florida.
Still, it's an opening game, and you have to consider this progress from last season, when the Cats needed fourth-quarter heroics to stage a 10-7 comeback win over Eastern Kentucky.
This one had the Cats sweating early, but the end result was pretty, even if three of the final four touchdowns were quick strikes from 95, 89 (Tramaine Thompson punt return) and 46 yards out.
It's 1-0 for the Wildcats, and the Cats will prep themselves for a Week 2 date at home against Miami (Fla.).
Schedule: Kansas State holds the first of 15 practices today, capped by the Purple/White game on April 28. Practices are closed to fans and media.
What's new: The expectations. Kansas State returns 18 starters from last season's team; only seven teams in college football return more. Last season's team was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, but won 10 games and earned a second-place finish. Bring back a team like that, and the spring's going to sound very, very different. Kansas State will likely tote a top-15 ranking into the season, and there's a lot more attention being paid to Manhattan this spring after Bill Snyder proved returning to the sidelines was a worthy cause.
New faces: Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh left for South Florida, but new defensive coordinator Tom Hayes inherits a great defense with plenty of talent and experience. Kansas State also welcomes several early enrollees: quarterback Tavarius Bender, fullback Glenn Gronkowski, and defensive lineman Wesley Hollingshed from the juco ranks. Hollingshed, a 6-foot-2, 300-pounder from Texas, could help fill the void left by defensive tackle Ray Kibble, who made 38 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2011.
Breaking out: Arthur Brown earned plenty of attention last season, but fellow linebacker Tre Walker could be poised for a big junior season. Walker made 52 stops last season, and broke up three passes.
Big shoes to fill: The offensive line. Kansas State's rushing attack carried it to the Cotton Bowl last season, but the biggest losses were on the front line. Tackles Clyde Aufner and Zach Hanson, and guard Colton Freeze are gone, so finding replacements this spring will be important. Center B.J. Finney might emerge as one of the team's leaders, but look for guys like Cornelius Lucas, Jordan Allred and Ethan Douglas to get the first shot at filling those holes. Keenan Taylor should be a factor at guard, too. Kansas State also brought in juco transfers Tavon Rooks and Ellwood Clement on the line. Last season's starting left tackle, Manese Foketi, suffered a season-ending injury early, but could be granted a medical redshirt and return for 2012.
All eyes on: Collin Klein. How much better of a passer will he become this offseason? We saw a lot of progression from September to December. Will that continue into the offseason, or has Klein hit his ceiling as a passer? He has an underwhelming receiving corps to throw to, but if Kansas State develops a better passing game, the offense is going to be the nation's most frustrating to stop. If Klein shows up with much more accuracy in the fall, he's going to have legitimate Heisman aspirations, too.
Question marks: Kansas State can't prove it until the fall, but was last season a fluke, or the start of something special? There's no ignoring the Wildcats' 8-1 mark in games decided by a touchdown or less. In every game except a road loss against Oklahoma State, the Wildcats found ways to make plays and come back from fourth-quarter deficits. Can they improve and avoid some of those situations, but still perform in tight spots late in games? No question is bigger for the Wildcats in 2012. They won 10 games last season, but could have easily been closer to 7-5.
Chris Cosh is headed to South Florida.
South Florida has hired Kansas State assistant Chris Cosh to be its defensive coordinator, reuniting him with coach Skip Holtz.More on this story here.
Cosh served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Wildcats since 2009. Kansas State improved in a big way in 2011, cutting almost 100 yards per game off of its rushing defense to rank 37th nationally.
Holtz and Cosh worked together as assistants at South Carolina under Lou Holtz from 1999-2003. In all, Cosh has been a defensive coordinator for 15 of his 28 seasons as an assistant, with stops as well at Maryland, Michigan State and Illinois.
It's clear that Brent Venables won't be heading back to Kansas State, but Bill Snyder's got a big void in his staff to fill with Cosh's exit.
- The age-old debate — Can TCU compete in the Big 12 — is over. Time to quit debating, and start playing, writes Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Missouri's ready for the SEC, but is the SEC East ready for Missouri? Paul Myerberg of Pre-Snap Read says this is not your father's Mizzou.
- Travis Haney and Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman have dueling looks at the decision facing Brent Venables. Here's what he must weigh. And ultimately, it's about money and prestige vs. comfort.
- The change at OU means one thing, too: Bob Stoops can no longer say he's never fired an assistant.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman looks back at the preseason predictions he made and, well, it's not pretty.
- Kansas quarterback Brock Berglund was dismissed on Monday for missing a mandatory team meeting he told officials he wouldn't be able to attend, reports Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World.
- Texas A&M and Missouri aren't locked in as permanent cross-division rivals in the SEC. Arkansas is "on the table" reports Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- K-State fans were ready to run defensive coordinator Chris Cosh out of town this time last year. Now, he's the main target to replace Mark Snyder, who left for Texas A&M, at USF. Greg Auman of the St. Petersburg Times has the story.
- Kansas added three junior college transfers to its recruiting class in the past few days.
- Don't look now, but an ex-Texas quarterback is the favorite to win the job at Colorado in 2012, writes Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera.
- Texas has confirmed the six players who'll be joining the team this spring.
- Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World has more on the reuniting of Charlie Weis and Dayne Crist at Kansas.
- Iowa State takes you on a virtual tour of its new facility building.
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. (FOX)
Kansas State take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Kansas State does it ugly. All the time, every time. But it does it. The Cats are college football's biggest overachievers, and they do it on the back of Collin Klein, who has dragged defenders on his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame for 1,099 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. By the way, he's the quarterback. Never mind his wonky delivery. He's gotten better and more accurate as the season has gone on, and somehow has stayed healthy. He just might be the toughest player in college football, and if you're watching K-State's offense, he's probably the guy with the ball in his hand.
Bill Snyder deserves the national coach of the year nod, and the Wildcats have had a defensive renaissance under coordinator Chris Cosh in 2011. This is the same team that gave up more than 3,000 rushing yards last year. Well, sort of. It's not quite the same team. Linebacker Arthur Brown doesn't miss very many tackles and he's one of the Big 12's speediest linebackers. Cornerback Nigel Malone picked off seven passes this year for an All-Big 12 caliber season.
Arkansas take from SEC blogger Edward Aschoff: Before the season, it looked as if coach Bobby Petrino was equipped with his best, most complete team since his arrival in Fayetteville. The defense was easily the best he had, and while quarterback Ryan Mallett was gone, Tyler Wilson appeared to be just as talented, and with their wealth at wide receiver, it didn’t look like the Razorbacks would miss a beat in the passing game. Not to mention Arkansas had one of the SEC’s best in running back Knile Davis.
But days before the season began, the Hogs were dealt a crushing blow when Davis went down with a season-ending ankle injury. With Davis sidelined, the Arkansas offense became more one-dimensional as it searched for a consistent running back. Injuries then took hold of the defense and the Hogs found themselves outmanned in a huge game with Alabama, losing 38-14. The Razorbacks then struggled to get going in the first half of games after that. The slow starts nearly cost them at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, but things changed during their homecoming game with South Carolina.
The Hogs jumped out quickly against the Gamecocks and never looked back. Starting with that 44-28 win, the Razorbacks won their first three games in November by a combined score of 137-52. Arkansas had an opportunity to shake up the BCS and sneak into the national championship, but fell 41-17 to No. 1 LSU in its season finale. Still, Arkansas had another fine year under Petrino, getting to 10 wins and finishing first in the SEC in total offense (445.8 yards per game).
2010 overall record: 7-6
2010 conference record: 3-5
Returning starters: Offense (5), Defense (6) P/K (1)
Top returners: QB Collin Klein, CB David Garrett, S Tysyn Hartman, LB Alex Hrebec, S Ty Zimmerman, WR Brodrick Smith
Key losses: RB Daniel Thomas, WR Aubrey Quarles, OL Zach Kendall, DL Prizell Brown, QB Carson Coffman, RB/KR William Powell
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Daniel Thomas (1,585 yards)
Passing: Carson Coffman (2,060 yards)
Receiving: Aubrey Quarles (765 yards)
Tackles: David Garrett* (92)
Sacks: Prizell Brown (5)
Interceptions: Ty Zimmerman* (3)
Three spring answers
1. Quarterback spot looks clear. It’s not over, but it’s obvious Klein will enter fall camp with a lead in the quarterback spot, ahead of Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle. He’s only thrown 18 career passes, but will the experience he gained on the field in 2010 should help entrench him as the starter next year.
2. Defensive playmaker emerges. Linebacker Arthur Brown returned home from Miami and sat out last year, per NCAA rules, but made an impact as a scout team defender. This spring, he moved up and will likely start next year. He made a game-high 14 tackles in the spring game and has speed unlike any other Wildcats linebacker.
3. Snyder works his juco mojo again. Juco cornerback Nigel Malone showed up to campus this spring from a junior college in California, and after just 15 practices he may be a starter across from one of the team’s stars, Garrett. Bill Snyder is known for his juco talent-mining skills, and with Malone it looks like he’s struck again.
Three fall questions
1. Who’s the running back? Daniel Thomas was a do-everything back for two years, but we may see a share of carries this year. Bryce Brown hasn’t had quite the impact his brother, Arthur, has, but he’s competing with John Hubert for a starting spot.
2. Where’s the D? Kansas State has found a few new pieces in Malone and Arthur Brown, but embattled defensive coordinator Chris Cosh is still there. The Wildcats defense struggled last year, ranking 11th in total defense. How much better can it be in 2011?
3. What’s in store from Klein? Even if Klein wins the job, he won’t be facing Kansas State’s secondary every week. Is he developed enough as a passer to give Kansas State a viable passing threat? That’s something the Wildcats didn't have with Carson Coffman or Grant Gregory, but can Klein buck the trend?
What’s new: Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh came under fire after the Wildcats' defense struggled for most of 2010, ranking 11th in the Big 12 and 106th nationally in total defense. Coach Bill Snyder kept Cosh, however, and added his son, Sean Snyder, as the special teams coordinator and associate head coach. Snyder, a former K-State punter, had previously served only as director of football operations. The Wildcats also added Tom Hayes as secondary coach, replacing Keith Burns.
On the mend: None are more notable than receivers Brodrick Smith and Tramaine Thompson. Smith sufffered a broken leg late in the loss to Nebraska and missed the rest of the season. Thompson, a shifty 5-foot-7, 165-pounder, also suffered a leg injury late in the season. The pair should be among K-State's leading receivers in 2011.
Key battle: Quarterback. All three springs in Bill Snyder's second term will have featured quarterback competitions. This time around, the key characters include Collin Klein, Sammuel Lamur and incoming transfer Justin Tuggle, who previously started at Boston College. Quarterback play has been a problem for Kansas State since Josh Freeman took his talents to the NFL, and to compete in the Big 12, the play simply has to be better.
Key battle II: Defensive line. Prizell Brown and Antonio Felder are both gone and must be replaced. All of Kansas State's top five recruits from the 2011 class were defensive linemen, and it's likely that at least a couple will start or find their way into the rotation.
Breaking out: Defensive back David Garrett. One of the bright spots of a struggling defense last year, Garrett led the team with 92 tackles and had 15 tackles for loss, which ranked fourth in the Big 12. He broke up nine passes, made three sacks and intercepted a pass. He somehow managed to be left out of the coaches' All-Big 12 team, but he should make plenty of offenses sit up and take notice this year.
Don’t forget about: Defensive end Brandon Harold. He had a quiet season in 2010, making just two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. His talent was clear in his freshman season, though, when he had three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He's still a solid end, and could be due for a big year in 2011.
All eyes on: The Brown Brothers. The Wichita natives will be the story of the spring and, perhaps, the story of the 2011 season. On paper, both sound like possible program changers. Former five-star recruits, both signed with major programs out of high school. Bryce Brown, the running back, headed to Tennessee in 2009 and linebacker Arthur Brown went to Miami in 2008. Neither ended up being serious contributors, however, despite the talent showcased in high school. Now, they're back closer to home and hopeful that they'll be integral pieces of the Wildcats' offense and defense.
Spring practice starts: February 28
Spring game: April 2
What to watch:
- Big changes on defense. Baylor brought in Phil Bennett as its new defensive coordinator, and he says his scheme will be multiple, built to fit the Bears' personnel. Considering the Bears' recent recruiting successes in the secondary, look for a 4-2-5 type of look.
- Recruiting stars: time to shine. Both safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, are gone. Baylor, though, has two former ESPNU 150 recruits at safety who would be well served to start filling their potential. Prince Kent was a reserve last season and at one time, the nation's No. 51 overall recruit who originally signed with Miami. Ahmad Dixon, meanwhile, was the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2010 class. The opportunity is there. Baylor needs big talent at the position. Briles has recruited it. Can they develop into players who make Baylor a contender?
- Running back competition. Jay Finley topped 1,200 yards in 2010, but he's gone. Who steps into his void? Terrance Ganaway is a bowling ball at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, but the shifty Jarred Salubi could get a good amount of carries, too. They could begin to share carries this spring.
Spring practice starts: March 22
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Quarterback competition. It should be a good one in Ames this spring. Jerome Tiller is the name most recognize after getting lots of meaningful time and starts because of injuries to Austen Arnaud over the past two seasons. But juco transfer Steele Jantz sounds confident he can win the job. Rising sophomore James Capello and redshirt freshman Jared Barnett will compete, too.
- Paging Cyclone receivers. Iowa State had one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league during the past season, and three of its top five pass-catchers won't return in 2011. Of those three, however, one is a tight end (Collin Franklin) and another is a running back (Alexander Robinson). The new quarterback will need some help, and Darius Darks and Darius Reynolds will need to provide it as seniors.
- Shontrelle's time or not? Freshman Shontrelle Johnson looked like the running back with the most pop behind Robinson for most of 2010, but two other freshmen running backs jockeyed for carries, too. Paul Rhoads is hardly handing the job over to Johnson, but spring could be the time when he really separates himself from the pack.
Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 30
What to watch:
- What are they doing behind center? Kansas never got much consistent play out of the quarterback position last year, but freshman Brock Berglund is one of the 2011 class' top recruits, and enrolled early to compete in the spring with Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham. With a building program like Kansas, there's perhaps some value in handing the program to a younger player like Webb or Berglund, but they'll have to earn it. Doing so will start in the spring, but don't expect the Jayhawks to have a set-in-stone starter by spring's end.
- Top linebacker back on the field. Huldon Tharp missed all of 2010 with a foot injury, but he says he's 100 percent and ready to get back on the field. As a freshman in 2009, he was fifth on the team in tackles, with 59, and looked like one of the league's possible budding stars. Now, he'll get his chance to join fellow linebacker Steven Johnson as one of the team's top tacklers, and he'll do it as a sophomore after redshirting in 2010.
- Toben rising? Turner Gill raised plenty of eyebrows when he moved his team's leading rusher in 2009, Toben Opurum, to linebacker in fall camp, and eventually slid him up to defensive end. But toward the end of 2010, Opurum started showing some major signs of growth at the position. We'll get a better idea this spring if he's one of the league's most unlikely new stars at defensive end.
Spring practice starts: April 6
Spring game: April 30
What to watch:
- Prodigal Kansan sons come home. There's no doubt that the Wichita native Brown brothers are the main attraction at Kansas State this spring, a season after transferring back home. Bryce Brown, the running back, was the nation's No. 8 prospect in the 2009 class. Arthur Brown, the linebacker, was the nation's No. 6 prospect in the 2008 class. Bryce transferred from Tennessee and Arthur from Miami. The Wildcats are pinning much of their hopes on the duo, and we'll get a good sense of what they can provide soon.
- Quarterback competition. Carson Coffman is gone, and two new faces will challenge for the job: juco transfer Justin Tuggle and Daniel Sams. Sammuel Lamur is also up for the gig. Collin Klein may or may not be; Bill Snyder hasn't explicitly confirmed a past comment from Sams saying Klein had moved to receiver. Don't expect a starter to be named by spring's end, but a general order could start to form.
- Can the defense show improvement? Kansas State had the Big 12's worst overall defense last year, and the worst rushing defense in college football, giving up 3,008 yards on the ground. Coordinator Chris Cosh looks like he'll still be around in 2011, and defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman are solid pieces to try and build around. But this young maturing defense must get better to make a bowl game again with so many questions on offense. That starts in the spring.
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Franklin comes alive! Blaine Gabbert bolted to the NFL early, and Missouri has a gaping hole a quarterback. The position, however, is surrounded by a lot of quality talent that likely makes the Tigers a Top 25 team. There's no understating the importance of the position for the Tigers, and that will begin to be decided in the spring. James Franklin, a rising sophomore, saw spot duty in 2010 as more of a runner, and may have the inside track on the job, but Tyler Gabbert, Blaine's younger brother, and Ashton Glaser should make it an interesting competition in the spring. If neither of them impress early, don't count out incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser.
- Here is the new secondary. Same as the old secondary? After years of pass defense being one of the Tigers' biggest weaknesses, it became a strength in 2010 behind the leadership of senior corners Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis. But the Tigers lose them and safety Jarrell Harrison. Rutland emerged as one of the team's most impressive players last spring, but was Missouri's success in the secondary a one-time thing or the beginning of a welcome trend?
- Time to dominate the trenches? Missouri played without likely first-round pick Aldon Smith for much of the previous season, but the defensive and offensive lines for the Tigers were as good as ever in 2010. How will they look in 2011? Impact juco transfer Sheldon Richardson won't be enrolled by the spring, but the four returning starters on the offensive line should get some solid work against Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Terrell Resonno.
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Freshmen on display. Coach Bob Stoops hasn't been shy about saying his 2010 recruiting class was his best ever, but it could look even better after this spring. Two of his best emerging recruits, Justin McCay and Geneo Grissom, didn't even play in 2010, and could start to make an impact. The same goes for Corey Nelson, who will try to earn some more time somewhere backing up star Travis Lewis.
- Is there a golden boot in Norman? Jimmy Stevens was much more accurate in 2010, finishing 19-for-23, but his attempts outside 45 yards were sparse. The good news is he missed none of his 53 extra points. Field goals have been a bit of an adventure for the past couple years, but continuing in the spring what he started last year would be a good sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners are strong everywhere and need good special teams play to reach their lofty title goals.
- Are the Sooners' backs back? Roy Finch missed the Fiesta Bowl with a stress fracture, and his durability is certainly questionable entering 2011. When he's healthy, he looks like the next star in the Sooners' backfield, but they'll need some depth behind the 5-foot-8, 173-pounder. Jermie Calhoun, Jonathan Miller and Brennan Clay have all looked good at times, but there should be some good competition from newcomers Brandon Wegher, an Iowa transfer who'll be in camp this spring and eligible next season, and blue-chip recruit Brandon Williams, who enrolled early.
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Every piece of the offense. The spring in Stillwater is all about keeping or improving upon the status quo. Had it kept Dana Holgorsen, there'd be little doubt that would happen, but Oklahoma State must make the most of its five returning offensive linemen, quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon. The opportunity for a historic season is there, but they'll have to pick up the nuances of the new offense quickly in the spring like they did last year.
- What about the kicker? Dan Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2010, but he's gone. Oklahoma State needs to fill that role quickly, and we'll likely know who will get the nod after the spring.
- Who steps up on the defensive line? The Cowboys lose three starters up front on defense, including All-Big 12 performer Ugo Chinasa and tackles Chris Donaldson and Shane Jarka. Can senior Richetti Jones become a star in the Big 12? We'll have a good idea if he, or any of the Cowboys' other defensive linemen, can by the end of April.
Spring practice starts: February 24
Spring game: April 3
What to watch:
- New coaches and their students/players. Texas has five new coaches. Although it's hard to get a good read early on, how they relate with the players on the field, in the film room and around the facilities will have a big impact on how the 2011 season plays out in Austin. The young-blooded coordinators could serve themselves well by relating to players and the players will need to spend plenty of extra time learning new schemes and plays.
- Quarterback competition ... or not? Mack Brown says the gig is open and it is, for now. Garrett Gilbert can close it with a strong spring. If Garrett struggles on the field or has difficulty grasping the new system, the door will be wide open for Connor Wood or Case McCoy to step in and close it. Gilbert didn't get much help, but he did very little in 2010 to inspire a lot of breathing room with McCoy and Wood clamoring for playing time.
- And you've got to defend the pass, too. Texas loses its top three cornerbacks to the NFL, and only Carrington Byndom and A.J. White got much meaningful playing time last season. Younger players can earn some rare early playing time with a strong spring. Will anyone step up?
Spring practice starts: March 22
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- New linebackers in the running. Spring isn't so scary when you bring back nine defensive starters, but the two Texas A&M lost were the heart of its defense. Linebackers Michael Hodges and Von Miller are gone. Kyle Mangan didn't look fantastic when forced into action during the Cotton Bowl, but the time is now for Damontre Moore and Dominique Patterson, a pair of sophomores, to make their impact.
- Tannehill's tuning things up. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played about as well as anyone could have hoped late last season, but he'll need it to continue his performance with a solid spring nailing down the timing with his receivers, who all return. He's already got a leg up on last year's quarterback, Jerrod Johnson, who was held out of team drills last spring after shoulder surgery that eventually derailed his senior season.
- Christine's back. Christine Michael missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, giving way to Cyrus Gray's rise among Big 12 backs. It should make Texas A&M's depth at the position even more impressive, but we'll see how Michael looks coming back from the injury.
Spring practice starts: February 19
Spring game: March 26
What to watch:
- Past defending that pass defense. Texas Tech had the Big 12's worst pass defense last season, but has a pair of big potential players at cornerback in rising sophomores Tre Porter and Jarvis Phillips. Starters LaRon Moore and Franklin Mitchem are gone, but if returning starters Cody Davis and Will Ford can continue to mature, the defense should improve in the area most important for success in the Big 12.
- And they're off! There's a four-man quarterback derby set in Lubbock this spring between Seth Doege, Jacob Karam, Michael Brewer and Scotty Young. I don't expect it to be settled until midway through fall camp, similar to last season, but there should be a solid front-runner and more clarity after spring. Coach Tommy Tuberville was extremely impressed with Doege and Karam last spring after Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield went down with injuries.
- Time to find new stars. Most of the big names on Texas Tech's defense are gone. Colby Whitlock, Bront Bird, Brian Duncan will all continue their careers elsewhere. The leaders on the defense will have to begin to emerge in the spring. Is it Scott Smith? Cody Davis? A younger, unexpected player? We'll find out. Sometimes these types of situations aren't as easy to predict as they might seem, like Missouri's strength in 2010 emerging in the secondary.
- Could former USF coach Jim Leavitt end up at Kansas State soon? "Things will be cleared up soon enough," he said.
- Here's a look at colleague Mark Schlabach's way-too-early top 25. Plenty of Big 12 flavor all throughout the poll.
- You'll see Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts and linebacker Brian Duncan in the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game in San Antonio on Feb. 5.
- A Colorado player from the 2010 team has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, reports Kieran Nicholson of the Denver Post.
- New coach Jon Embree, meanwhile, may be zeroing in on the final hire of his coaching staff: his quarterbacks coach.
- Nebraska fans can rest easy after Michigan filled its coaching vacancy from San Diego State instead of LSU, which might have courted Bo Pelini, writes Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World-Herald.
- Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal doesn't believe Chris Cosh's son's recent departure from the program has any connection to the K-State defensive coordinator's future.
Total class: 28
ESPNU 150: 0
By position: CB 4, DT 3, OT 3, QB 3, ATH 2, RB 2, G 2, S 2, OLB 2, WR 2, TE 1, ILB 1, DE 1.
By state: Kansas 11, Texas 8, Florida 3, California 2, Maryland 1, Oklahoma 1, Colorado 1, Georgia 1.
Already enrolled in school: 6.
The big ones: RB Demarcus Robinson, ranked as the nation's No. 49 running back, has been favorably compared by coach Bill Snyder to Darren Sproles. DE Adam Davis, a productive pass-rusher at Hutchinson Community College, could immediately challenge for a starting position.
Sleeper: OL Manase Foketi, a mammoth 350-pounder from Mount San Antonio College, will add some much-needed beef in the trenches for the Wildcats.
Needs met: Four defensive linemen were added who could potentially challenge for immediate playing time. And with the loss of cornerback Joshua Moore to the NFL draft, any of the four arriving cornerbacks headed by Matthew Pearson and Darious Thomas will be useful for needed help. And underrated prospect Billy Cosh, son of KSU assistant Chris Cosh, will add more competition at the logjam at quarterback.
Analysis: Snyder has a typically heavy mix of junior college players and five players who were on the roster last season but whose scholarships will kick in this season. The most important part of this class is that important depth was added along both the offensive and defensive lines. The Wildcats could have used quarterback Cameron Newton, who decided last month to attend Auburn. Instead, Snyder added three quarterbacks for what is a position heavy on personnel but a big question mark heading into spring practice.
What Bill Snyder said: “It is kind of the way of the world and it is just the way of recruiting today. It’s different for me and I’m still trying to get my arms around it. I am not sure that I’m fully comfortable with it.” … [on the needs that the 2010 recruiting class satisfied]: “It relates to offensive and defensive line help more than anything else. We can build young guys up, but we need big guys to come in and make a contribution in the early stages of their career.”
Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: D, 12th in Big 12.
Tate Snyder, a 205-pounder who led Manhattan High School in tackles and was an All-State selection at linebacker, plans to play the position on his grandfather's team.
He will follow in the footsteps of his father, Sean Snyder, who was an All-American punter for his father in the early 1990s. Sean Snyder is now Kansas State's associate athletic director and associate head coach for football operations and development.
"Not many people have had the opportunity to coach their son and their grandson, so I think I will enjoy that immensely," Bill Snyder said. "It will be fun, but probably not for him (Tate), but I will never get tired of it."
The veteran coach said he learned some lessons coaching his son that will help him coaching his grandson.
"I've talked to a lot of coaches who have coached their sons and so many of them said to not coach your son and I didn’t want that to be true," Bill Snyder said. "The inclination is that most people would view you to be easier on you son or grandson. But my nature would be to go the other way and that is exactly what I did with Sean.”
Tate Snyder told the Manhattan Mercury that he hopes to add more weight to boost his chances of playing for the Wildcats.
"Size is a big deal. They want me to put on 5 or 10 more pounds so I can be at 215," Tate Snyder said to the Mercury. "They've talked about me a little at will (weakside linebacker) and (Kansas State co-defensive coordinator) Coach (Chris) Cosh has talked about it a bit, but I know nothing is guaranteed."
The chance to work with the Kansas State strength and conditioning program should help him get bigger and prepare him for his opportunity with the Wildcats, he said.
"I'm exited to work out and go through the program," he said. "I've seen guys go in and a few weeks later they've just exploded with 15 pounds, but I just want to take the program in and get stronger."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 defenses are nearly as proficient as their offensive counterparts. But the best teams in terms of defense will likely end up as the conference’s best teams because stopping the high-powered offenses in the conference is so rare.
Here’s a look at how I rank them:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners return nine starters and are among the nation’s very best defenses. It starts with three-deep talent along the defensive line keyed by Gerald McCoy and Auston English, who was the conference’s preseason player of the year last season before spraining his knee. They might be a little lacking in depth at middle linebacker behind Ryan Reynolds with the injury to freshman standout Tom Wort and Mike Balogun’s iffy status. The only new starters are strong safety Sam Proctor and free safety Quinton Carter, who have both been impressive in fall camp. The Sooners’ substitutes might be better collectively than most Big 12 units.
2. Texas: The Longhorns have arguably the conference’s best back seven, particularly a developing secondary led by Earl Thomas and corners Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams. Sergio Kindle and Alex Okafor are poised to become the primary pass-rushing specialists. Lamarr Houston has developed into an anchor at defensive tackle, but the Longhorns need to find another player at the other defensive tackle position to juice production for their biggest defensive weakness. Will Muschamp’s unit must do a better job after producing only 16 turnovers last season to rank tied for 104th nationally.
3. Nebraska: It all starts with the defensive line, which is among the best in the nation with Outland Candidate Ndamukong Suh and defensive ends Pierre Allen and Barry Turner. The Cornhuskers are young at linebacker where they might start two linebackers, although coaches really like 6-foot-6, 230-pound buck linebacker Sean Fisher and Will Compton. Coaches say the secondary is playing with more confidence, but the group produced only 12 interceptions last season. Boosting that turnover production will be critical in the Cornhuskers’ division title hopes.
4. Texas Tech: This is where the big drop-off starts from the top three teams. The Red Raiders will miss pass-rushing threats McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams from last season, but have an experienced unit back. Rajon Henley and Brandon Sharpe are set to fill in as the pass-rushing threats and Colby Whitlock can be a terror at times -- particularly against Texas. Brian Duncan is a producer and the team’s leading tackler at middle linebacker. Jamar Wall is one of the better cover corners in the league. But the unit will depend on the improvement of two projected starters: redshirt freshman free safety Cody Davis and strong safety Franklin Mitchem.
5. Oklahoma State: The development by veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young will determine whether this unit has the goods to lead the Cowboys to their first South title and a potential maiden BCS bowl appearance. The biggest key will be producing more sacks from a defensive front that notched only 15 last season. Young has been concentrating on push from his defensive tackles and thinks he has an underrated pair in seniors Swanson Miller and Derek Burton. The loss of Orie Lemon at middle linebacker will hurt, although Donald Booker has been a producer in limited playing time. The secondary will be playing new starters with only Perrish Cox returning. But keep an eye out for senior free safety Lucien “The Punisher” Antoine who was turning heads last season before blowing out his ACL in the second game last season.
6. Colorado: The Buffaloes are faster this season and that should help them cope with the high-powered offenses in the Big 12. The linebackers are deep with Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart as the prime producers. And I really like the secondary, with Jimmy Smith and Cha’pelle Brown among the best pair of cornerbacks in the conference. The biggest concern is along the defensive line, particularly after the injury of heralded freshman Nick Kasa that may idle him for the season. One area to note will be at right defensive end, where sophomore Lagrone Shields and freshman Forrest West are in the two-deep. Shields has played four snaps in his career.
7. Kansas: The Jayhawks need defensive improvement if they are going to fulfill their hopes of making their first championship game. The Jayhawks were crippled last season without a consistent pass rush. They hope junior-college transfer Quintin Woods, Caleb Blakesley and 304-pound Jamal Greene up front along with sack leader Jake Laptad. After losing three starting linebackers from last season, the Jayhawks will retool. I look for them to play two linebackers and a nickel look in many cases. Look for freshman Huldon Tharp to become a producer at linebacker. The secondary is the strength of the defense with All-Big 12 candidate Darrell Stuckey at strong safety and Phillip Strozier poised to continue his late-season development.
8. Baylor: Up the middle, the Bears might be among the strongest defenses in the conference with heralded transfer defensive tackle Phil Taylor, linebacker Joe Pawelek and hard-hitting safety Jordan Lake. Baylor coordinator Brian Norwood knows he needs more production from a defensive line that collected only 21 sacks and allowed opponents to complete 67 percent of passes for 3,063 yards. Antonio Jones and Antonio Johnson sometimes get overshadowed by Pawelek at linebacker. Junior cornerbacks Tim Atchison, Clifton Odom and Antareis Bryan need to improve or it could be a long season for the secondary.
9. Missouri: Any defense that starts with All-American candidate Sean Weatherspoon won’t be too bad. The Tigers could be a surprise considering that Gary Pinkel has been raving about the speed his unit possesses -- particularly at defensive end and at cornerback. Look for a three-man rotation at defensive end with Brian Coulter, Jacquies Smith and Aldon Smith to boost production in the pass rush. The secondary was a huge liability last season ranking 118th in pass defense. Kevin Rutland has shown a physical style at cornerback and Kenji Jackson and Hardy Ricks might be ready to help at safety.
10. Kansas State: New coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning plan to run a 4-2-5 defense. Their first concern is developing a rush with 2008 first-team freshman All-America pick Brandon Harold out with an injury. While he’s gone, the Wildcats need Eric Childs and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to emerge up front. John Houlik and Alex Hrebec apparently have earned the starting jobs at linebacker. Three junior college players -- David Garrett, Troy Butler and Emmanuel Lamur -- have apparently earned starting jobs for a secondary that desperately needs to improve after ranking 106th nationally in pass defense. The defense ranked tied for 110th in scoring defense and 117th in total defense, so the new coordinators better boost improvement or it will be another long season.
11. Texas A&M: Whatever happened to the Wrecking Crew defenses from the past? The best indication of the concern that Mike Sherman has for his defensive unit came when he transferred projected starting left tackle Lucas Patterson move back to defensive tackle late in preseason practice to boost production inside. Von Miller was impressive at the “jack” position, but he’ll need some good fortune to hold up consistently rushing against the huge offensive lines in the conference. The Aggies need to improve after yielding 461 yards and 37 points per game and earning the ignominy of being one of three FBS teams to allow opponents to average 200 yards rushing and passing last season. Coaches say the unit is faster and more athletic, but they have to play much better to get the Aggies back into bowl contention.
12. Iowa State: Veteran defensive Wally Burnham has a great reputation and most recently flummoxed the spread defenses of the Big East while at South Florida. The Big 12, however, will be a different story. The Cyclones ranked tied for 110th in scoring defense and 112th in total defense. Coach Paul Rhoads says he’s been frustrated by his team’s lack of tackling techniques. They have a building block in cornerback Leonard Johnson. Burnham and Rhoads know what they are talking about defensively as both were coordinators for top 30 defenses last year. But it will take a lot of patience to help rebuild this unit that needs so much improvement.
We're headed down to the final week of camp as two-deep rosters are getting set for next weekend's openers across the conference.
A collection of talented freshmen have emerged at Big 12 programs so far in training camp. Here's a look at one newcomer to remember from each Big 12 team as
we head into the start of the season.
Baylor: Imposing 6-foot-6 freshman wide receiver Willie Jefferson has already played his way into the Bears' rotation at receiver. He's shown a knack for making acrobatic, leaping catches and has made a quick connection with Robert Griffin in the Bears' offense.
Colorado: Freshman defensive end Forrest West is mature enough physically to compete for playing time immediately from early in the season. Coaches rave about his quick learning abilities and his physical skill. They think he can position himself into the rotation early in the season.
Iowa State: Freshman middle linebacker A.J. Klein, who turned 18 in July, has already turned heads because of his physical play and knack for roaming from sideline to sideline for tackles. He's now No. 2 on the Cyclones' depth chart behind starter Jesse Smith and should see playing time from early in the season.
Kansas: Coach Mark Mangino has already said that freshman wide receiver Bradley McDougald performed better than any freshman he's had in his program. The converted defensive back is already earning snaps at wide receiver -- improving the Jayhawks in speed and talent at an already stacked position.
Kansas State: Freshman cornerback Thomas Ferguson has been an early producer at workouts and has a good chance to see playing time immediately because of the new 4-2-5 defensive alignment favored by coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning.
Missouri: Freshman running back Kendial Lawrence will get immediately playing time, despite the stacked roster in front of him with Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore. Lawrence can provide a speedy element for the Tigers to be looking for after rushing for 2,679 yards and scoring 43 touchdowns last season as a high school senior.
Nebraska: Freshman I-back Rex Burkhead, who was impressive early and has kept getting better. With Quentin Castille being kicked off the team, Burkhead now is the No. 2 I-back on the roster behind starter Roy Helu Jr.
Oklahoma: Freshman cornerback DeMontre Hurst has emerged as one of the surprises at camp. Hurst had two interceptions at the Sooners' recent scrimmage and should have had another.
Oklahoma State: Freshman safety Daytawion Lowe, who has shown well at several recent practices despite playing one of the team's deepest positions. Lowe will play in the Cowboys' defensive rotation.
Texas: Freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert has staked his claim for the backup position behind Colt McCoy, taking advantage of Sherrod Harris' slow recovery from knee surgery. Look for Gilbert to get playing time this season and position himself for a strong bid for Texas' 2010 starting job.
Texas A&M: Freshman linebacker Sean Porter played a lot with the first-team defense in the Aggies' most recent scrimmage. A&M coaches have been impressed with his speed and athletic ability and he's playing at a position of need for his team.
Texas Tech: Running back Eric Stephens has emerged in the Red Raiders' rotation behind Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers. Coach Mike Leach has described the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Stephens as "built for combat." Look for him to be used immediately in the running game and also as a kick returner.
Here are some lunch links from a busy weekend across the Big 12.
The Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel explains why the dismissal of Quentin Castille by Nebraska coach Bo Pelini hurts the Cornhuskers so much. And Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple discusses Nebraska's I-back void as Castille leaves.
How does Texas stack up with the last four national championship teams? The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls makes the comparisons.
Baylor center J.D. Walton promises to the Sporting News' Dave Curtis that this year's offense with Robert Griffin will be "amazing."
The Denver Post's John Henderson ruminates on his 1,300-mile road trip across the Great Plains to check out Big 12 preseason practices. I'm surprised we didn't see any references to Sonic Drive-Ins.
Kansas coach Mark Mangino is optimistic about his current team, but still a little edgy as the Jayhawks approach the upcoming season, Tully Corcoran of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
The Tulsa World's Bill Haisten wonders why Mike Gundy locked the gates of his program to the outside world for the next week.
Bob Stoops (as a defensive back) and Mack Brown (as a running back) were selected to Richard Cirminiello of the College Football News' All-Coaches playing team.
New Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman tells the Waterloo and Cedar Falls Courier's Kelly Beaton how his "underdog offense" could thrive in the Big 12.
New Kansas State co-defensive coordinators Chris Cosh and Vic Koenning are bracing for the challenge of their careers as they prepare for the pass-happy Big 12 Conference, Cole Manbeck of the Manhattan Mercury reports.
The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter breaks down Oklahoma's lack of depth at middle linebacker after Tom Wort's season-ending knee injury and Mike Balogun's iffy status in the future.
The Charlotte Observer's J.P. Giglio explains why he was one of two AP voters who thinks that Texas will be hoisting the AFCA Coaches' Trophy at the end of the season.
Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M are among Big 12 teams that are listed "at the crossroads" by Associated Press national college football writer Ralph Russo.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Arizona inside receivers coach Mike Smith has left the Wildcats program to pursue a possible position at Kansas State.
The Arizona Daily Star reported Tuesday that Smith told Arizona coach Mike Stoops of his decision on Monday, and the job opening was placed by athletic department officials early Tuesday.
"Mike Stoops gave me his blessing," Smith told the Star. "I value Mike's friendship and our relationship on and off the field. It was a tough decision for me."
Smith could become the second Arizona coach to join KSU coach Bill Snyder's staff in the past month. Associate head coach Dana Dimel, a former veteran KSU assistant under Snyder, returned to his old school on Feb. 10.
With the departure of offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig for a vacant job at California late last month, Dimel likely will roll into the coordinator position with Smith taking a similar job coaching receivers with the Wildcats.
The return makes a lot of sense for Smith, who coached running backs with Snyder on his KSU staff from 1995-2005. His two daughters still live in the Manhattan area, the Star reported.
It would appear to be another part of Snyder's staff familiar with his coaching philosophy. Among the coaches who are currently on the KSU staff, co-defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, defensive ends coach Joe Bob Clements and defensive line coach Mo Latimore all previously served on Snyder's staff. And co-defensive coordinator Vic Koenning played at KSU.
Or maybe it's the addictive Cajun food at the Hibachi Hut in Aggieville in Manhattan, Kan.